Robusta coffee is the second most popular coffee in the world, so if you're a coffee lover – it makes sense that you'd want to know all about it.

What is robusta coffee?

 Robusta coffee is a type of coffee made from the beans (seeds) of the Coffea canephora plant.

Given that there are over a hundred species of coffee, robusta has done well to become the second most popular coffee on the world market.

So let's take a look at what it is, and where it comes comes from.

Where does robusta coffee come from?

Robusta coffee is largely grown in the Eastern Hemisphere, mainly in Africa and Indonesia. The largest producer is Vietnam.

Coffea robusta has become a synonym of Coffea canephora which has two main varieties, C. c. robusta, and C. c. nganda. These varieties are commonly referred to as robusta coffee.

It's often used in instant coffee, and espresso blends.

What does robusta coffee taste like?

Robusta coffee tastes earthy and is often said to have a bitter, rubbery/grain-like flavor, with a peanutty aftertaste.

Robusta coffee beans contain more caffeine and less sugar than arabica beans, and therefore taste stronger and harsher than arabica.

Is robusta coffee good?

At this point you may be wondering if robusta tastes good – well, high quality robusta is said to add depth of flavor to an arabica/robusta blend, and a nice crema to espresso blends. But inferior robusta is often described as tasting kinda like burnt rubber.

In espresso land (yes – I mean Italy) high quality robusta is desired because of the crema and flavor it adds to the espresso.

So if you like harsher, more earthy flavor notes, you may like a little robusta in your blend. Or, if you're after a nice thick crema on your espresso, then a high quality robusta might just do the trick.

All About the Robusta Coffee Plant

The robusta coffee plant is a resilient little plant. It can withstand hot temperatures (30°C and over) and full sun. It likes to stay hydrated and requires a lot of water to be happy & healthy.

It grows at low altitudes – sea level to 600 meters, and is resistant to insects and disease.

In the wild it grows to around ten meters tall, but when grown for commercial use is pruned to a height which makes harvesting easier, around five meters.

The flowers are white and smell sweet like jasmine.

The fruit of the robusta coffee plant turns deep red as it ripens, and takes around 6 to 8 months to do so. The fruit does not all ripen at the same time, much like blueberries – there can be ripe and unripe fruit on the same branch.

There are usually two coffee beans (seeds) inside each “cherry”, or ripe berry.

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How much more caffeine is in robusta?

If you've heard that there's more caffeine in robusta than arabica, you've heard right. There's around twice as much caffeine in robusta.

That higher caffeine content is one of the things that makes the robusta coffee plant less susceptible to pests and disease. The pests don't like the bitter flavor, and the disease doesn't like its antimicrobial properties.

The higher caffeine in robusta also lends to a bitter flavor in brewed coffee. A cup of brewed robusta contains around twice as much caffeine as a cup of arabica.

Where is robusta coffee grown?

As mentioned above the majority of robusta is grown in the Eastern Hemisphere, but some also comes from South and Central America.

Top 13 Producers of Robusta Coffee

The following list is made up of some of the largest producers of robusta coffee:

  1. Viet Nam
  2. Brazil
  3. Indonesia
  4. India
  5. Uganda
  6. Malaysia
  7. Cote Divoire
  8. Thailand
  9. Cameroon
  10. Philippines
  11. Madagascar
  12. Guinea
  13. Guatemala
If you see the above countries listed as the source of beans on a bag of coffee (especially countries in Africa and Asia) there may be some robusta in the mix (unless it says that it's 100% arabica coffee) especially if it has a bitter/smoky flavor going on.

Robusta beans are sometimes added to bags of arabica as a filler (to save $$) or to achieve the flavor notes it carries with it.

Like this bag (pictured below) from the Congo. I was pretty sure by the way the beans look, and taste – that it was a blend of robusta and arabica. But when I contacted the roaster/importer, they confirmed that it is not a blend – but 100% arabica. You'll notice the different shapes in the beans – suggesting different varieties – but it turns out that they are actually just different quality arabica beans.

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Nguyen Quoc Bao

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